More Money Will Go Toward Technology to Help Protect Nation's Ports

The Bush administration Monday took steps to address some of the vulnerabilities in the nation's port systems--a topic that has come up more than once in the presidential debates.

President Bush signed the fiscal-year 2005 Homeland Security Appropriations Act, which provides $28.9 billion in net discretionary spending for the Department of Homeland Security. The act includes $419.2 million in new funding to enhance border and port security activities, including the expansion of prescreening cargo containers in high-risk areas.

Additional funding includes $80 million to be used to purchase new technology for screening cargo containers entering U.S. ports. This includes radiation-detection monitors for screening passengers and cargo. The act includes an increase of $20.6 million for staffing and technology acquisition to support the National Targeting Center, which was created on Nov. 10, 2001, to support inspectors from the U.S. Customs, Immigration, and Agriculture departments, as well as the U.S. Border Patrol, which in 2003 was merged into U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The National Targeting Center's Automated Targeting System integrates information from government, commercial, and law-enforcement databases, and analyzes electronic cargo information related to individual shipments to rank them in order of risk.

"Technology will play an important role in the maritime security arena," said Asa Hutchinson, Homeland Security's undersecretary for border and transportation security, at a September maritime conference in New York.

For more on efforts to use technology to keep U.S. ports safe, see our upcoming story in the Oct. 25 issue of InformationWeek.